DOD’s Latest Black Site

Fresh off of the ICRC’s confirmation that DOD has a black site in Bagram, Marc Ambinder has a long piece on it, describing it as run by part of the DIA, the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center, and downplaying, somewhat, what its use of Appendix M might mean. For example, he describes the Appendix to cover just short bouts of sleep deprivation and some sensory deprivation.

However, under secret authorization, the DIA interrogators use methods detailed in an appendix to the Field Manual, Appendix M, which spells out “restricted” interrogation techniques.

Under certain circumstances, interrogators can deprive prisoners of sleep (four hours at a time, for up to 30 days), to confuse their senses, and to keep them separate from the rest of the prison population. The Red Cross is now notified if the captives are kept at the facility for longer than two weeks.

When interrogators are using Appendix M measures, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Gen.James Clapper (Ret.) is the man on the hook.

I think Ambinder has just not clearly stated the sleep deprivation restrictions (which require 4 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, but which would therefore allow for 40 hour periods of consecutive sleep deprivation). And the limits in Appendix M make it clear that environmental manipulation (with noise, heat, cold, or even water) is still permitted, just not excessive amounts of it.

Care should be taken to protect the detainee from exposure (in accordance with all appropriate standards addressing excessive or inadequate environmental conditions) to—

− Excessive noise.

− Excessive dampness.

− Excessive or inadequate heat, light, or ventilation.

− Inadequate bedding and blankets.

− Interrogation activity leadership will periodically monitor the application of this technique.

Use of separation must not preclude the detainee getting four hours of continuous sleep every 24 hours.

Oversight should account for moving a detainee from one environment to another (thus a different location) or arrangements to modify the environment within the same location in accordance with the approved interrogation plan.

Which would be utterly consistent with BBC’s report that detainees there were subject to cold cells, constant light, and sleep deprivation.

There are a lot of interesting details in Marc’s piece. But perhaps the most amusing is the Orwellian non-denial denial from DOD’s spokesperson, Brian Whitman:

“DoD does operate some temporary screening detention facilities which are classified to preserve operational security; however, both the [Red Cross] and the host nation have knowledge of these facilities,” said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesperson. “Screening facilities help military officials determine if an individual should be detained further and assists military forces with timely information vital to ongoing operations.”


“In all our facilities the standard is humane treatment and all DoD detention facilities are required to be compliant with Common Article III, The Detainee Treatment Act, the Executive Order signed by the President last year, and the DoD Detainee Directive and the Army Field Manual,” Whitman said.

Yes, Whitman affirms, there are “temporary screening facilities.” Red Cross and Afghanistan knows about them (of course, Ambinder’s story is partly a response to a story reporting the Red Cross confirmation that this prison exists). Screening facilities both help the military determine whether someone should be detained further (which suggests a temporary arrangement) and assists with timely information vital to ongoing operations (which suggests a more extensive arrangement). The facilities comply, Whitman claims, with Common Article III, DTA, Obama’s Executive Order, and the Army Field Manual. Which is, of course, a testament to how prisoner abuse remains nestled in Appendix M. We know the original approval for this (DOJ claims this memo is no longer valid) approved the Appendix separate from and long before the techniques as they currently exist were finalized (so it’s not clear whether anyone has actually confirmed these techniques comply with Common Article III). And Obama’s entire Executive Order was based on the Army Field Manual, which includes Appendix M, which includes vague outlines of these techniques as permissible. It’s all very neat really.

One more unrelated detail (though you should read Ambinder’s entire post). As the name “Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center” suggests, the same organization doing these interrogations is the same that took over the Counterintelligence Field Activity duties of domestic spying.

Not that that should concern us at all.

41 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    And remember that Obama’s EO issued the day after he took office only outlawed CIA black sites. We originally interpreted that to mean that JSOC still ran black sites, but now it looks like DIA gets to join them. What could possibly go wrong?

    • harpie says:

      I was just about to comment on that, too. From Ambinder’s article [emphasis added]:

      Defense officials said that the White House is kept appraised of the methods used by interrogators at the site. The reason why the Red Cross hasn’t been invited to tour it, officials said, was because the U.S. does not believe it to be a detention facility, classifying it instead as an intelligence gathering facility.

      Lewis Carroll said it best:

      ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’
      ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
      The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

      • skdadl says:

        The reason why the Red Cross hasn’t been invited to tour it, officials said, was because the U.S. does not believe it to be a detention facility, classifying it instead as an intelligence gathering facility.

        I wondered about that sentence too. Whence came that rule? I thought that the ICRC was to be allowed access to everyone who is detained, combatant or not. Don’t the rules for the ICRC work kind of the way that Common Article 3 does? The U.S. gov seems to be inventing yet again a category that is apart from “everyone,” no?

        • DWBartoo says:

          T’is but OUR inherent “exceptionalism”, which means, as Humpty says, what we “choose it to mean …that’s all.”

          Good morning, skdal, harpie, and Jim.


          • skdadl says:

            I wasn’t thinking that Common Article 3 says anything about access (just swotting that up now), but it does insist that all persons must be treated humanely. I was just presuming that the ICRC would take it from there that they should have access to anyone who is “detained” on the grounds that they’re all persons.

            • ondelette says:

              They operate by powers of persuasion. So they make a deal with the detaining authority that maximizes their access, on whatever basis they use to determine that, and probably keep arguing for more. That’s why they “welcome” the access they’ve gotten since August.

              We, as citizens of the detaining authority, actually have the potential for far more enforcement than they do. But there has to be some kind of general sense from the people of the United States that what the military is doing is wrong. And it has to get communicated to the government in terms they can’t say no to. And the military, if it were given such a clear mandate, would probably be happy to comply. As long as the American people are ambivalent, though, the torture has taken root, so extirpating it will not happen.

              Sorry to put it that way, but the primary responsibility for implementing and enforcing international humanitarian law isn’t the ICRC’s, it’s ours.

        • harpie says:

          Hi, skdadl!
          I’ll defer to ondelette, who’s quite knowledgable, on all matters regarding the ICRC and the GC’s…no matter how often I try to learn/remember it, I don’t seem to be able to talk about it coherently. :-/

          One important thing I think would make a huge difference is an actual Prisoner of War designation for our detainees. Can soemone explain to me where the fourteen days comes from? This kind of operation is the type of thing, I think, that McCain/Lieberman want to codify in their proposed Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act of 2010 [S. 3081] Would appreciate others’ thoughts on that.

          • ondelette says:

            I just study it a lot. I feel an obligation to help implement Article 144 ;-) (it’s the one that says that from time to time the High Parties will disseminate the Geneva Conventions to the public in order that the goals be widely understood).

            Somehow I think that if it were embedded in the social contract in this country (and elsewhere for that matter) some things just wouldn’t happen. But IHL was backwatered at some of the finest law schools in the country over the past few decades, and hasn’t been widely disseminated like is should have been (and the UDHR covenants should have been), and this country has ridden on its laurels for too long, believing itself to be an upstanding human rights protector. And now we’re paying the price.

            • DWBartoo says:

              The role of law schools in ALL of our current problems, cannot be overlooked, dismissed, or forgotten, ondelette.

              The law, the rule of law, is THE essential social resource for justice AND for progress.

              For, without the rule of law,all governments, whatever they may claim to be, are tyrannical frauds, and destructive to humanity …


              • DWBartoo says:

                To claim that America, for example, is a democracy is patent nonsense, political snake oil, to be precise.


    • MadDog says:

      Ah — a new expression to remember: “temporary screening detention facilities.”

      Ah – then Waterboarding must be something like: “Temporary water-impaired respiration cessation.”

      Good to know that DOD still has that spiffy abbreviated nomenclature thing down pat else somebody might call it “drowning”.

      • DWBartoo says:

        Cutting edge stuff, there, MadDog. Would not “water-ENHANCED” sound better, though? We are dealing with subtle and nuanced things here, are we not?


  2. fatster says:

    So what is this: supposedly a kinder, gentler approach to torture?

    ‘Moaning, y’all.

  3. ondelette says:

    This is the entire “confirmation” exchange:

    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that since August 2009 US authorities have been notifying it of names of detained people in a separate structure at Bagram.

    “The ICRC is being notified by the US authorities of detained people within 14 days of their arrest,” a Red Cross spokesman said.

    “This has been routine practice since August 2009 and is a development welcomed by the ICRC.”

    The spokesman was responding to a question from the BBC about the existence of the facility, referred to by many former prisoners as the Tor Jail, which translates as “black jail”.

    “We are being notified about persons at the Bagram Theatre Internment Facility [now Detention Facility in Parwan] since Feb 2008,” the ICRC spokesman added.

    At least now that the military has confirmed the site, we can go from there. The military has close to 100 such “temporary” sites either formally under its control or under “Afghan control” in Afghanistan. They are all under the 14 day restriction. Many are inhumane for long-term detention. It has consistently been a problem that people have been held there for longer than 14 days, it has consistently been reported that people are “softened up” for interrogation in them.

    The proper question to be asking the military is: How come there are so many reports that the 14 day limit is routinely violated?

    After we get an answer to that (and some people, e.g. Barbara Olshansky in Democracy Detained have been asking since before 2006) then, and only then, will we start to make progress on this stuff. There isn’t going to be progress on Appendix M until there is progress with our civilian prisons right here in the United States, starting with the lawyers and judges that send people there, knowing that they violate international law and basic human rights and human dignity. We need a culture change to stop that. Mark my word.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      Ondelette, you are right that we need a culture change. (I left a response to you in my post, btw. And to tantalize readers, I’ll say here that “forbidden” was a poor choice of words.)

      And thanks, EW, for this article. Just woke up and have to jog off to work, but I’ll definitely be reading the Ambinder piece. — One quick thing I noticed from your quote — the 30-day restriction is eminently renewable, on both isolation and sleep deprivation. Even the “field” use of goggles and earmuffs is renewable beyond 12 hours. Approval for extensions takes place below the COCOM commander level (much less that of the Undersecretary of Defense), by the GO/FO (I’m not sure what the initials stand for, and they aren’t the in AFM’s glossary. Anyone know?)

      Note also that Appendix M is also used with regular AFM techniques, which in combination make the experience certainly torture, including the use of Fear Up (which can create, according to the new field manual language, new fears and phobias for prisoners, rather than just play on existing fears), Ego Down (humiliation), and don’t forget use of drugs, which can even derange the senses, as long as there is no “permanent damage”. These latter “techniques” are not even part of Appendix M, and it is the combination of them with the Appendix M techniques that seals the torture deal.

    • emptywheel says:

      RE the 14-day violation. I’ve been wondering why the ICRC confirmed the prison at all. That’s somewhat unusual for them to do, isn’t it?

      • ondelette says:

        It isn’t clear they did. When the article came out, I went to all the usual places to see if they had. Normally, at least in my experience, if the press claims they made a statement and they did, there will be a press release, a message from Jacob Kellenberger, a report, or something, with a name on it. But then, if you look carefully at what was in the article, she asked them if they were aware of Tor Jail, they responded that they had full access to prisoners at Bagram, and, since August, everywhere else in U.S. custody. So it isn’t clear they actually said anything new, and I’ve been checking to see if they run some clarification, and so far I can’t find anything. I imagine if the clamor gets loud enough, and they have something to say, we’ll see it. But now that the military has confirmed the site, it may be unnecessary.

        But her article served it’s purpose in that the military admits the site, and has started to investigate. It also seems to be tacitly admitting it isn’t the only one, and that it thinks that within the 14 day limit, it’s on firm legal ground. So the next questions seem to need to go to the civilian authorities, what did you specifically authorize? Jeff is right, they certainly are allowed to do the AFM including Appendix M. If you read Appendix M, they only need high level permissions for some of the stuff if it continues longer than 30 days. That’s because there’s a prohibition in IHL of “close confinement” for longer than that.

        The one prisoner said he’d been there from June to October, which is far longer than 30 days, and he’d had no ICRC visit. If the ICRC had been newly aware of the site in August, that doesn’t seem likely, so either they previously had access, or they’ve been assured that nobody is ever there for longer than 14 days. Or something we don’t know yet.

    • DWBartoo says:

      Absolutely well and powerfully said, ondelette, the simple truth.

      Thank you, your words are marked.


  4. Jeff Kaye says:

    Okay, for my money, besides the admission of the site(s), and the notice of DIA control (two big scoops for Marc), these were the two new vital pieces of information:

    [1] Defense officials said that the White House is kept appraised of the methods used by interrogators at the site….

    [2] Although “Copper Green” was disbanded, the Defense Department’s detainee affairs section has set up a new special access program under which the rules for battlefield interrogations are established. It is classified Top Secret.

    And just when we thought it was only the AFM/Appendix M. Why the need for a SAP if interrogations are limited to AFM-approved procedures? What are these rules for battlefield interrogations? It is bad enough that Obama approves and is appraised of the techniques used at the Tor site, i.e., of torture, but we now have the possibility that other, worse, techniques are being used, under a different set of rules, and even possibly, of new experiments being done upon prisoners.

    The United States government cannot be trusted. It has consistently and repeatedly broken the law, and sought to hide that fact. It has paid off people to tell lies to the public, and it uses secret agents to spy on those who protest any of the above. What is left to do?

    Only to tell the truth, and keep on telling it, and hope for that change in cultural norms that Ondelette was mentioning. (She has also pointed out how domestic torture in U.S. prisons is part of the overall picture, just as EW and Ambinder point out that these secretive and ever-shifting DoD agencies and joint agency operations (like CIFA and DCHC) combine operations in lands under violent occupation, and at home, policing the domestic opposition.

    One truth cuts through it all, given his prominence. Barack Obama is a torturing president. He is the flim-flam man of human rights, selling you a fake bottle of hope, while behind the scenes, he directs those distributing the poison.

    “the White House is kept appraised…” How would we respond if the denizens of that White House were GWB and Darth Cheney? Why shouldn’t we respond any differently now?

    • DWBartoo says:

      Thank you, for all the digging you do, Jeff, and the many things you bring back for us to see, to marvel at or to be appalled …

      I have been wondering, since I saw the Kiriakou interview with Jason, what you might have thought of the tangential mention of Mitchell and Jessen and the mention of “their” CIA person? I am certain none of this is new to you, and offer specific appreciation for your necessary affect upon the tarnished profession of psychology and the better sensibilities of the nation, itself.


      • Jeff Kaye says:

        I must disappear for hours now. Though I watched the entire interview, I don’t remember the part about M-J’s CIA person. I’ll have to go back (which I intended to do with more time this weekend).

        One thing I can say, we were always wrong to assume Mitchell and Jessen were the only contractors present, or even that they had much authority. We are supposed to think they did, but when I’ve had my chance to ask very high-up people who would know, and certainly know M&J, how the latter could push their agenda beyond the protests of key and senior CIA and FBI personnel on site, I was given the lame excuse that I didn’t understand the forcefulness of Mitchell’s personality. In other words, these are the guys to dump it on and that’s it. They are important, but more important are the people behind them. So yes I must look back at Jason’s interview and check more carefully what is being said there.

        • DWBartoo says:

          I think your assessment spot on, Jeff, thank you.

          T’is, always, distraction, misdirection, and arrogance …

          (Which only makes the thoughtful, more determined.)


        • DWBartoo says:

          I think that is correct, Mary.

          Kiriakou did not “go” any place with the almost too casual mention …


          • Jeff Kaye says:

            Popping in… yes, I remember, Kiriakou said he essentially kept “Deuce” out of his book because he was a friend, and Deuce had asked him to. Jason caught him on this. Hence, Kiriakou had little to add about Martinez in the interview, but Jason did get a little more out of him on it, and I’ll have to go back (or maybe Marcy or Mary or someone will) to see if there was more meat on that bone than not.

  5. skdadl says:

    Teensy editorial nark:

    the White House is kept appraised

    Could we all make sure, when we write further about this, to correct that error? I’m sure the White House is kept appraised (how much do we think it’s worth now?), but Ambinder meant “apprised.”

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      I noted that, and thought maybe I was wrong, so I left is as spelled. Thanks for making the point. From the context, Ambinder certainly meant “apprised”. But where were his editors/proofreaders?

      • DWBartoo says:

        “But where were his editors/proofreaders?”

        Now that particular question might just open a rather large can of worms, as professional competence seems much in the news, these days./S


      • bobschacht says:

        Ambinder certainly meant “apprised”. But where were his editors/proofreaders?

        Journals like the Atlantic, and papers like the NYT used to be paragons of editorial virtue. Books of Style were written with such publications held up as models. Now, not so much.

        Bob in AZ

    • Mary says:

      Or maybe he meant après-zed – which, come to think of it, with a guy who doesn’t look back, is one of the better ways to fill him in, après-tortureinterrogation.

      There’s something up on youtube and discussed at Huffpo where Hersh is claiming that troops are engaging in field executions to get around the 14 day transfer.

      What they’ve done in the field now is, they tell the troops, you have to make a determination within a day or two or so whether or not the prisoners you have, the detainees, are Taliban. You must extract whatever tactical intelligence you can get, as opposed to strategic, long-range intelligence, immediately. And if you cannot conclude they’re Taliban, you must turn them free. What it means is, and I’ve been told this anecdotally by five or six different people, battlefield executions are taking place. Well, if they can’t prove they’re Taliban, bam. If we don’t do it ourselves, we turn them over to the nearby Afghan troops and by the time we walk three feet the bullets are flying. And that’s going on now.

      So it sounds like they are now telling the ICRC about the guys that they take and keep, but not so much providing a list of everyone taken into detention to start with. You can just see Obama and Holder looking at this concept of “screening facilities” to go hand in hand with their backstab to Miranda – just take the “suspects” somewhere to be “screened” for awhile, where they are insulated from the application of law – – it’ll be ok, we’ll follow the Army Field manual in how we handle them, what could go wrong?”

      In any event, you have to wonder how many of our civilian killings came about as a result of intel from a “screening facility” where there was pressure to get something, anything, in a short time frame.

      • DWBartoo says:

        You will bust my gut, one day, Mary, with your deft and timely humor.

        (You and fatster.)


  6. Mary says:

    Re: Martinez (and since the NYT story was primarily about him interrogating KSM I thought it was interesting for Jason to bring him up while they were talking about AZ) IIRC, JL said that it didn’t seem that DM was in the book, unless he was “Emir”(?I think that was the name?) K said “no, he’s not Emir, but he (DM) is in the book, just not by name. Then JL asked about why not by name and K said it was bc DM didn’t want to be a public figure on this issue or something like that, and he was respecting his privacy. But one interesting thing, again IIRC, was that when they talked about DM working with M & J, he said that was true as of a year ago, but made it sound as though things might have changed. fwiw.

    You can’t go into everything, but it would have been interesting to ask K not only what he thought of waterboarding, but of the childnapping and disappearance of children by the CIA interrogators like his friend as a part of their interrogation.

    • DWBartoo says:

      One hopes that the relationship between JL and Jon Kiriakou is such that further interviews may occur. Jl seems able to help Kiriakou focus on areas his book might not have gone into.

      At the end of the interview, I was certainly hoping for more, and sense that Kiriakou may well be inclined to share further thoughts regarding his time “in” service.

      Your continued effort to pursue answers regarding childnapping and the disappearance of children will out the truth, Mary, and I join with you in total solidarity (as they say) in seeking those answers.

      Kiriakou may well be one of the critical people whom we should place before, right now, as things continue to “unravel”, the germane questions.


  7. bobschacht says:

    “…compliant with Common Article III, The Detainee Treatment Act, the Executive Order signed by the President last year, and the DoD Detainee Directive and the Army Field Manual…”

    Would that the “and” in this list was a strong “and,” and not an “or”.
    That is, simultaneous compliance with all the provisions of all four directives. Alas, I suspect this is not the case.

    Bob in AZ

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      Don’t make too much of this legislative legerdemain. The DTA, for instance, limits interrogation techniques to those in the Army Field Manual. But they changed the army field manual to the current one, w/Appendix M.

      It’s all a shell game, Bob. These people cannot be trusted, period.

  8. croghan27 says:

    Verb 1. appraise – evaluate or estimate the nature, quality, ability, extent, or significance of; “I will have the family jewels appraised by a professional”; “access all the factors when taking a risk”

    Perhaps a Freudian slip? As in I will grant you a Sotomayor in return for two black sites and some offshore drilling?

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